Showing posts with the label Health-news

Olive oil or coconut oil: Which is worthy of kitchen-staple status?

Coconut oil has developed a cultlike following in recent years, with proponents touting benefits ranging from body fat reduction to heart disease prevention. Sadly for devotees, the evidence to support these assertions remains rather sparse. But there is plenty of research to suggest that other plant-based oils have advantages over their animal-derived counterparts, particularly when it comes to heart health. So which is best? While no specific type should be hyped as a panacea, one variety isn’t getting the press it deserves: olive oil. The case for olive oil continues to grow Olive oil is a staple fat in the Mediterranean diet , and its previously publicized benefits have largely relied on examining its use by European populations. This information is useful, but looking at olive oil within the context of American diets provides us with stronger data to guide dietary choices here at home. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at ad

Summer’s here, teens and parents — now what?

Summer is upon us, and for many teens in this country, school’s already out. Now what? Typical and cherished summer activities like jobs, internships, and camps may be on hold. There is a general sense of uncertainty about what the coming months will bring, and higher levels of worry in cities and states that struggled with many cases of COVID-19. This is going to be a very different summer than usual for many teenagers and their families. As the weather heats up, here are four tips to guide parents in helping their teens plan for the months ahead. Validate your teen’s reaction to current circumstances Teens may be feeling disappointed, anxious, and/or sad about cancelled activities and events. They may have a sense of uncertainty about what is to come. They may also be missing friends and feeling socially isolated. While it can be tempting as a parent to jump into problem-solving mode when you see your teen in distress, first take some time to listen to their concerns. Express their

4 parenting tips to break the negativity loop

“It’s a beautiful day outside,” you say, smiling. Your son replies, “It’s supposed to rain later.” You share, “That game was fun!” Your daughter adds, “I messed up one of my turns.” If you find that your child tends to channel Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh and has difficulty seeing some of the bright moments in a day, below are some ways to help them interrupt a negativity loop. The first tip works well for all ages. Choose the other tools depending on whether your children are younger or older. Start by validating emotions Parents have a lot of wisdom to share with their children, and their advice often is filled with a lot of logic. Unfortunately, that logic tends to backfire when shared with someone experiencing an unhappy emotion, and can make the emotion even stronger. Both children and adults need to feel heard before their ears can open up and hear what else you have to say, so try to validate first before you try to help children appreciate positive aspects of a situation. V

New drugs approved for advanced BRCA-positive prostate cancer

Defective BRCA genes are well known for their ability to cause breast and ovarian cancers in women. But these same gene defects are also strong risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer in men. About 10% of men with metastatic prostate cancer — meaning cancer that is spreading away from the prostate — test positive for genetic mutations in BRCA genes. Fortunately, these cancers can be treated with new types of personalized therapies. In May, the FDA approved two new drugs specifically for men with BRCA-positive metastatic prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other treatments. One of the drugs, called rucaparib, was approved on May 15. The other one, olaparib, was approved on May 19. Both drugs work by shutting down the cancer cell’s ability to fix its DNA. Like all cells in the body, cancer cells are bombarded every day by free radicals, low-level radiation, and other stressors that cause DNA damage. BRCA genes ordinarily fix that damage so that cells can function normall

Treating mild sleep apnea: Should you consider a CPAP device?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder characterized by repeated episodes of partial or total upper airway obstruction that result in arousals from sleep, and changes in oxygen levels during sleep. OSA is one of the most common conditions I see as a sleep medicine specialist. This is not surprising, considering that OSA is estimated to affect about 20% of the general population, and is even more prevalent in patients who are obese, or who have heart or metabolic conditions like diabetes. When untreated, OSA can negatively impact cardiac and metabolic health, quality of life, and result in excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, problems with thinking, and depression or anxiety . OSA impacts people of all ages, backgrounds, shapes, and sizes, and while both patients and doctors have become increasingly aware about OSA and its effects over recent years, about 80% of patients with OSA still go undiagnosed. How is OSA diagnosed? The severity of OSA is based on the number of respira

How to stock a plant-based pantry (and fridge) on a budget

Given the current pandemic and related economic stressors, many of us are trying to maintain healthy habits while watching our expenses. One of the areas where we can support our immune system is through our food choices. We all have to eat, and eat several times a day, and selecting foods that support our health and our planet — while also saving money — is now a priority for many. People are going meatless for many reasons About a quarter of the US is now vegetarian, especially people ages 25 to 34 . A survey from 2017 studied US attitudes toward animal farming, and found that 54% of Americans were trying to purchase less meat, dairy, and eggs, and buying more plant-based foods. A plant-based diet has been linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease , and overall mortality. Studies have also shown an improved mood with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. In additional to health reasons for eating less meat, many people are embracing a plant-based diet with fewe

Better heart health in eight weeks? Double down on fruits and veggies

Two decades ago, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study tested the effects of three different diets on almost 500 participants over eight weeks. The first diet was a typical American diet, relatively low in fruits and vegetables (3.5 servings daily) and high in junk foods and sweets. The second offered more fruits and vegetables (8.5 servings daily) as well as seeds, nuts, and beans, and not many sweets. The third was the very healthy DASH diet, rich in fruits and vegetables (9.5 servings daily), beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, and barely any sweets. Participants truly stuck to each diet plan: All meals were provided by the researchers, with one meal per day eaten at the study center and the rest provided in coolers for take-home. All diets had the same amount of sodium (salt) and calories. What did the original DASH study find? After only two weeks, both the more-fruits-and-vegetables diet and the DASH diet significantly lowered blood pressure! This healthy

Study gives insight — and advice — on picky eating in children

As a pediatrician, I hear it again and again from parents: “My child is a picky eater.” All children are picky eaters at some point or in some way during childhood; it’s part of how they assert their independence. But some children are pickier than others, stubbornly refusing to eat everything except a few chosen foods. So what is a parent to do? A new article published in the journal Pediatrics gives some insight into picky eating — and into how we can prevent it and help. What does this study on picky eaters tell us? Picky eating starts early — and stays. Researchers looked at the habits of children ages 4 to 9, and found that picky eaters tended to stay that way. That means that parents need to start early to prevent picky eating, preferably before their child turns 2 (and that independent streak really sets in). So offer lots of different foods, including lots of different fruits and vegetables. Don’t cook a separate kids’ meal. Let your child eat what you are eating (with o

Are statins enough? When to consider PCSK9 inhibitors

For well over 30 years, physicians have understood the role of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). LDL cholesterol levels are directly correlated with increasing CVD risk and, as summarized in a recent blog post , lowering LDL cholesterol levels, through both lifestyle changes and medications, has been shown to reduce this risk. Statins are the first-line choice of medications for lowering LDL cholesterol. They are widely prescribed for both primary prevention (reducing CVD risk in patients without known CVD) and secondary prevention (preventing subsequent heart attacks, strokes, and other CVD events in patients with established CVD). How do PCSK9 inhibitors work? In 2003, researchers found a genetic mutation that caused some people to develop very high LDL cholesterol levels and CVD at a young age. This laid the groundwork for understanding the PCSK9 pathway, and ultimately the medications now known as PCSK9 inhibi

How to socialize in a pandemic

In early March, when most Americans began social distancing, the hope was that life would get back to normal after just a few weeks. It’s become clear now that some distancing will be needed for many more months, or even years, to keep the coronavirus at bay. But quarantine fatigue is real . Abstaining from all social contact for the long haul won’t be a sustainable option for most people. So, how can we make decisions about socializing during the coronavirus pandemic? Risk isn’t binary Public health messaging over the past several months has focused on staying home as much as possible. Staying home alone or with your household members is still the lowest-risk choice you can make with respect to catching or spreading the coronavirus. Being in a crowded indoor environment is the highest-risk choice. But risk isn’t binary, and there’s a lot in between those two options. Thinking about a spectrum of risk can help you choose the lowest-risk options for socializing that will be sustaina

Easing stress and seeking normalcy in traumatic times

For most Americans, 2020 has already been a rough year — and it’s not even half over. A pandemic, natural disasters, economic decline, and, for many, the loss of a job have taken a toll on their mental health. “Stress is particularly acute when you’re experiencing a situation that is outside of your control,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “You may feel stuck, frozen, or helpless.” After a traumatic period, even when things settle down, it can be difficult to move on and regain a sense of normalcy. Reducing stress and regaining your footing So, how can you reduce your stress and regain your footing after going through a bad time, whether that’s the result of a large-scale national emergency or even just a personal patch of bad luck? Step back. When traumatic events are occurring, whether it’s a natural disaster, pandemic, or mass shooting, you need to stay abreast of the news, but at the same time avoid retraumatizing yourself by becomin

Bracing for contact tracing

What should you do if you get a call from a contact tracer letting you know you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19? Even our best efforts to stay well — by maintaining distance, washing hands often, restricting the size of our social circles, and wearing masks — may not keep the virus at bay as cities and towns lift restrictions. That’s why many experts recommend three combined approaches to help prevent a dangerous resurgence of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19: continued mitigation efforts, which includes preventive strategies like those described above prompt access to testing, with quick turnaround on results contact tracing. What is contact tracing and who does it? Generally, contact tracing means locating and testing people known to have been in close contact with a sick person, to prevent an illness like COVID-19 from spreading to an ever-widening circle of people. This strategy works best when case numbers are low — not hig

5 winning ways for kids burn energy

Could your kids power the electrical grid, if you could only figure out how to tap that energy? Someday, all the hours spent cooped up at home will be a memory, not a daily reality. But if your children are bouncing off the walls with schools and day care still closed and summer coming, here are five active ideas to safely channel their energy. Pandemic or not, preschoolers benefit from active play throughout the day, and children ages 6 to 17 should rack up at least 60 minutes of activity daily , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And since regular activity boosts health and lifts mood, everyone stands to benefit. Pick a card Annelieke Rietsema, an employee health coach and fitness specialist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, suggests this simple strategy. Take a pack of playing cards and assign different exercises to each suit. For example, hearts could be jumping jacks or bear crawl; diamonds could be burpees or somersaults (if you have room); spades could be

Can forest therapy enhance health and well-being?

The beauty of the outdoors naturally encourages people to go outside, inhale fresh air, listen to the birds, take a walk, or watch the wind animate the branches of the steadfast neighboring trees. The pull toward the natural world is present even in normal times. Now, as we’re confined indoors by the coronavirus pandemic, often spending hours in front of inanimate screens, the urge to be outside is ever more acute. One way to satisfy these urges while improving our health and well-being is forest therapy, a practice growing in popularity around the world. What is forest therapy? Inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku , or “forest bathing,” forest therapy is a guided outdoor healing practice. Unlike a hike or guided nature walk aimed at identifying trees or birds, forest therapy relies on trained guides, who set a deliberately slow pace and invite people to experience the pleasures of nature through all of their senses. It encourages people to be present in the body, enjoyi

Can celiac disease affect life expectancy?

Celiac disease (CD), triggered by the ingestion of gluten, occurs in people genetically predisposed to develop the chronic autoimmune condition. During the past few decades, doctors have learned much about how the disease develops, including genetic and other risk factors. However, results from studies on whether people with CD have an increased risk of premature death linked to the condition have been mixed. A recent study shows a small but statistically significant increased mortality rate. Celiac disease can affect the entire body Until recently, CD was considered a mainly pediatric gastrointestinal disorder, associated with symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, and characterized by damage to the villi of the small intestine. (Villi are tiny, fingerlike projections lining the small intestine that help the body absorb nutrients.) With the development of accurate blood tests and large-scale screenings, we have identified CD as a truly systemic disorder

If cannabis becomes a problem: How to manage withdrawal

Proponents of cannabis generally dismiss the idea that there is a cannabis withdrawal syndrome. One routinely hears statements such as, “I smoked weed every day for 30 years and then just walked away from it without any problems. It’s not addictive.” Some cannabis researchers, on the other hand, describe serious withdrawal symptoms that can include aggression, anger, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, depression, restlessness, headaches, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Given this long list of withdrawal symptoms, it’s a wonder that anyone tries to reduce or stop using cannabis. Why is there such a disconnect between researchers’ findings and the lived reality of cannabis users? New research highlights the problems of withdrawal, but provides an incomplete picture A recent meta-analysis published in JAMA cites the overall prevalence of cannabis withdrawal syndrome as 47% among “individuals with regular or dependent use of cannabinoids.” The authors of the study raise the alarm